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Thursday, 20 January, 2000, 11:43 GMT
Commandos on Indian flights
The move follows December's Indian Airlines hijack
By Daniel Lak in Delhi

India has announced new security measures on domestic and international airline flights, following the hijacking of an Indian airlines passenger jet late last year.

The measures include deployment of highly trained commandos on flights identified as at risk of hijacking and tougher security screening at airports.

Hijack Special Report
The measures come amid mounting criticism of the government's handling of all aspects of the hijacking.

Minister of State for Civil Aviation Chaman Lal Gupta, told the Press Trust of India that armed commandos would fly on select routes to guard against hijacking.

He did not say what routes those might be but they almost certainly include flights to and from insurgency racked parts of the country like Kashmir and the north-east.

Chaman Lal Gupta: Cost will be over $120m

He said a new armed rapid action force would be recruited for deployment at airports around the country.

He said the cost of that measure alone would be more than $120m.

Mr Gupta also said consideration was being given to cancelling many of the special passes allowing dignitaries the right to forego security and drive their cars right to a waiting aircraft on the tarmac.

Criticism

Criticism of the government's handling of the hijack and alleged lax security on Indian airlines flights has been intensifying in recent weeks.

Highly trained commandos will be on board

In neighbouring Pakistan, armed plain clothes commandos fly on every flight to deter hijackers.

On sensitive flights such as from Delhi or Bombay, boarding passengers are checked thoroughly just before they get on the aircraft.

Indian commentators have asked why such a system is not in place here.

The high cost of the new measures and the sense that they may be too little too late will not allay criticism of the government.

Many here think it is just a matter of time before another attempted hijacking takes place because the Indian authorities gave in to some of the last hijackers' demands and released Muslim militants in exchange for the plane's passengers.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Aircraft security expert David Learmount
"India has made itself a risk for hijackers worldwide"
See also:

18 Jan 00 | South Asia
Wedding ceremonies for freed cleric
15 Jan 00 | AudioVideo
India demands hijackers' extradition
01 Jan 00 | South Asia
India's press asks tough questions
03 Jan 00 | South Asia
War of words over hijack
31 Dec 99 | South Asia
In pictures: The end of the hijack
06 Jan 00 | South Asia
India arrests four over hijack
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